NEW YORK — Martez Cameron was often the smallest player on the floor during Montverde Academy’s three-day run at a third national championship.
But that didn’t stop him from hitting, arguably, the biggest shot in this year’s Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals and one of most memorable in school history — a basket which helped the Eagles win a record-setting third straight national title.
When Cameron, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, banked in a layup at the buzzer at the end of regulation of Friday’s semifinal contest against Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, he became part of school folklore. He became Christian Laettner when the Duke University superstar hit a turnaround jumper at the horn to beat Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA East regional championship game and Willis Reed, who led the New York Knicks to the 1970 NBA championship despite playing with a painful leg injury that required multiple shots of cortisone to numb the pain.
To put Cameron’s shot in perspective, had he not gotten to the ball and put a shot up, Montverde Academy would not have played Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy in Saturday’s national title game. The Eagles likely would’ve been among the masses that filled the seats at Madison Square Garden, watching the championship and imagining themselves on the floor.
And because of Cameron’s one shining moment, the Eagles went on to beat Oak Hill 70-61 in Saturday’s national championship game at Madison Square Garden.
“I was on the high post when I saw the ball come off,” Cameron said after Friday’s game. “I went after the ball and put it up. There was no time to think about the moment or anything like that. It was all part of the basketball game.”
Cameron said he understood the ramifications of his shot when his teammates mobbed him afterwards, but he gathered himself together to get ready for overtime. In the extra period, Cameron went back to his forte — defense — and helped the Eagles beat Findlay Prep 57-53 to reach their fourth-straight national-championship game.
“Martez was, undoubtedly, the key to the game for us,” said Montverde Academy coach Kevin Boyle. “He’s a defensive specialist, perhaps the best on-ball defender in the country. That’s my opinion. But, he has some offensive skills, too. I hadn’t heard from college coaches about Martez before this tournament began, but we might hear from a few now. He earned a chance to play at the next level.”
Cameron was afforded the ultimate tribute Saturday when he was the last player introduced during player introductions. Montverde Academy fans who were sitting behind the Eagles bench, recognizing the role he played Friday, gave him a rousing ovation.
Despite his offensive heroics Friday, Cameron said he understands his role with the Eagles and his limitations on the floor. He doesn’t have the offensive chops to go out and score 20 points a game, nor is he going to hand out double-digit assists on a nightly basis.
Montverde Academy has other players to handle those chores.
Instead, Cameron looks for his opportunities to have an impact on the offensive end of the floor while working to be an impact player on defense.
“That’s what I do,” Cameron said. “Every time I step on the floor I take pride in my defense. That’s my role.”